Making a house a home 

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Maybe it's just me, but I find it ironic that a copy of the BC Building Code is $210, about the same price my wife paid to buy me a big bag full of cordless power tools for Father's Day a few years ago. If you had $210, what would you spend it on?

Contractors have to be licensed and have their work pass inspection, while I'm generally free to open up any wall I can get my reciprocating saw into, pull up floors, move plumbing and fixtures around as I like and generally do my worst.

Of course, the plan is always to try and do my best, but that's probably not going to happen without a copy of the building code — and I'm not spending $210 when that could buy a new sander and mitre saw.

I may ask the guys at the hardware/lumber store for some code-level wisdom from time to time — unless of course I'm afraid of looking stupid, unknowledgeable or inexperienced, something guys hate as much as asking for directions. In that case I'll probably watch a few YouTube videos and look up similar projects on eHow.com. I have a copy of the Do It Yourself: Canadian Edition from Christmas with lots of illustrations. How hard can it be?

Do It Yourself is an inalienable right in this country, like the freedom to assemble and the right to attorney — which you may need if one of your DIY project goes horribly wrong. An entire industry has been founded on everyday people dabbling in the trades in their free time, and convincing schlubs like me that we can do anything with the right tools and a little friendly advice.

There's a handyman's saying to the effect that a house doesn't become a home until you've hammered a few of your own nails into it, but to be honest I've never been all that excited about DIY projects. I'd much prefer it if my house was awesome from the get-go and I could focus my free time on other things — but unfortunately that isn't the case.

My home has so many problems and deficiencies that I wonder how it passed inspection at all. When you add wear and tear (and the general cheapness of original materials and fixtures) to the mix, it's abundantly clear that I've got years of DIY projects ahead of me.

The sorry truth is that my house was constructed by amateurs, during the worst era of Whistler's employee housing shortage. It wasn't a profitable exercise for the developer to begin with, and the primary goal from T-square one was to keep costs per square foot to the absolute minimum to make it affordable for resort employees. I'm not saying they "skimped"... but plainly they skimped.

Paying someone qualified to do all the work isn't an option either, not when I'll never get that money back because of the capped resale value. But I'm at least smart enough to realize that most of the electrical and plumbing work I'm pondering is beyond my comfort level.

The list of projects is long. One hastily constructed bedroom floor dips in one place and needs to be realigned or reattached to the stud. Another bedroom floor has a piece of floorboard sticking up. The cheap carpet never really fit the space properly either, and there are ripples all over the place. Add a few dog-related chew holes and it will have to be replaced either with wood, tile or new carpet.

The drywall and insulation is subpar and some work will need to be done to soundproof our townhouse. The interior doors might as well be made of paper. The trim is awful. The bottom stairs are literally held together with a few bent nails. The kitchen cupboards weren't installed properly. In fact, the kitchen and both bathrooms are badly in need of complete makeovers.

Many of the lights and fixtures are cheap, ugly and in weird places, including a dining room light hung over an area no dining room table would ever fit.

The windows are double-paned and inefficient, as are the sliding glass doors. The ceilings are ugly sponged plaster. The drywall is chipped and dirty, and will one day need to be covered with more durable wainscoting and wallpaper.

Closets need shelving for better storage. The front entryway needs weatherproofing. The small backyard needs a deck. The upstairs deck needs Plexiglas to block highway noise, and probably a resurfacing — who puts linoleum on an exterior deck?

One day I'd like to cover over a part of the exposed upstairs stairwell and put a closet in it or a small (like 12 square feet) office.

It's a daunting list. Another man might sell the home, or resolve to make do with a coat of paint and some replacement carpet. But not I.

For I have seen too many Home Depot commercials. I have a big bag of power tools AND a how-to book. I can do this! I think...

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